SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – As vendors race for revenues on wireless networks, expect to see smartphones that try to replace PCs, handsets hosting separate consumer and business clients and lots more video. Those were some of the ideas from execs at the Mobilebeat 2010 conference here.
Consolidation in mobile platforms and applications is a nagging issue, but increasingly the main focus is how to get to the money, according to presenters at the Mobilebeat 2010 conference here.
"We spent $9 billion on 700 MHz spectrum to take coverage to the next level for 4G, and now we are spending billions of top of that to build the networks out," said Humphrey Chen, director of new technology development at Verizon Wireless (pictured below).
Verizon has trial Long Term Evolution networks in Boston and Seattle now delivering 10 Mbits/s down to users and as much as 5 Mbits/s up to the net. One idea it is mulling to drive use of that network is a docking station with keyboard, camera and monitor that turns a smartphone into a full PC.
"With gigahertz processors, the divide between the smartphone and PC has narrowed," said Chen. "That's Microsoft's worst nightmare because there is no Windows or Office revenue, but there's a big Google Apps and Verizon cloud computing opportunity there," he added.
Chen also floated the idea creating separate consumer and business clients on a single handset, suggesting carriers could bill two parties for services on the device. "We are exploring virtualization technology to make that happen," Chen said in a keynote talk.
Verizon is expected to launch a mobile developer conference soon. It has already created a 4G venture forum including Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson and four venture capital firms to drive new ideas for cellular nets.
Many of the new ideas from Verizon and others involve packing more video on wireless nets. Chen said customer support services need tools to be able to ingest video feeds from customers.
Sprint, which recently launched its first WiMax handset, sees the potential for real-time high def video streaming to social networking sites using its net. It also expects use from businesses using handsets to connect security cameras and other monitors.
"We think there are tons of business apps, and we continue to seek embedded Wi-Fi devices to connect [our net] to," said Todd Rowley, vice president of 4G at Sprint.
Developers and OEMs said the mobile space is become less fragmented, but the road to revenue is still rough.
"We don’t mind the fragmentation today, but we want to get the marketplaces to work, said Peter Vesterbacka of Rovio, developer of the top-selling Angry Birds mobile game.
Fragmentation "used to be much, much worse in the bad old Java days with hundreds of variations," said Vesterbacka. "Now there's basically Symbian, Apple, RIM, Palm and Android, but want one place where people can get the apps and be billed--and we want our fair share which is more than half," he said.
The Apple iPhone App Store "is simple, but for some reason it's been tough for Symbian and Android guys to get to that level," he added.
Eric Chu, who heads up the Android group at Google said he will announce soon improvements to how Android developers can earn money. Today there is no Web portal for buying Android apps from a PC and no way to handle billing inside an Android app, Chu said.
"We've been investing heavily [in ways to make money in Android apps] in the last few months and look forward to some announcements in the next few months," Chu said.
John Ellis, director of software and services for Motorola's cellphone group, said Android has helped end fragmentation for his company.
"Before 2008 we had no less than 17 different platforms and the complexity was monstrous," Ellis said. "We had development teams that didn’t know what was going on and had developer paralysis," he said.
Like Verizon, Motorola is now focused on Android. "With the exception of ODM systems, all our products are based on Android and the numbers are beyond our forecasts," Ellis said.